Wednesday, August 28, 2013

UK 2013 - day 4: Belfast and Mournes

We made sure we bought the news paper letting everyone know baby George was born. It was on TV all day.

So, at breakfast we were told that the night before was student's night, that is why we had action till late again. Yes, it was Monday night, but it is school holiday, so I guess it is ok for student to party on Monday night.

Last night we got a tip from Stanley last night to go to the Public Records in Belfast. Maybe there we would find more info on the missing links in our family tree. So, armed with all the info we got, we headed to Belfast, to the Public Records, which might just tie in everything.

Our weather luck seemed to be over. The forecast called for cloudy day with showers. Well, guess what! It was sunny with some rain during the drive there and back.

We learned that parking on a weekday is much (oh, yeah, much) more expensive than on the Saturday. Unfortunately St. George's Market is closed on weekdays. I would have loved another St. George's meal time. I just love that place.

Well, but this is Tuesday. Let's get to our business. We headed to  PRONI, which was supposed to be on Chichester St. But when we got to the government building on that street, we learned it had moved to the Titanic Quarter.

It was a lovely day to walk and we definitely prefer not to drive much on a city we don't know. So we had a nice time walking to the PRONI and talking about cultural differences. Small cars, lack of internet access without having to enter your entire personal profile, accents, traditional values.

The PRONI was an interesting place. It is so full of information ... unfortunately for us, we were not able to find he missing link. Some records were lost in a Dublin fire that is believed to have been intentional - to erase protestant records. But we indeed learned how to find information. We are putting this find and everything from yesterday together. We will be taking it all with us to England, where we will meet  up with Stanley's brother - the historian.

The funny thing is Dean had actually gotten a hold of his brother before we ever met Stanley. In fact we met Stanley by chance: as he was leaving church on Sunday. Someone who was talking to us stopped him and introduced us. Then he mentioned he had a brother in London who had a lot of history on genealogy for our family ... "Wait! we are meeting a guy in London ... is his name Richard?" Yup, it as the same person.

We, then walked back downtown for lunch. We thought of trying the Bittles bar, but they are only a bar - no food served. We haven't been lucky with pubs here this time. Can't we find a freaking Irish pub in Ireland? Well, across the street from Bittles there was a restaurant, right next to the Victoria Mall.

After lunch we went for a walk in the mall,  then over to ... ta-dah ... Boots (!) for more of their shaving stuff.

Mourne Mountains
It was still 3 pm, we had enough time to drive through the Mourne Mountains - even though it wasn't enough time to go for a hike.

When we stopped at Tesco for a bathroom break, Dean found a version of Red Bull called Tesco Blue Spark.
Boy, oh boy! 40p for a Red Bull generic - I kid you not. Dean said it made him feel better and he was almost falling asleep before.

Heaven! I'm in heaven!

We drove to the coastal town of New Castle to start our drive through the Mournes. The weather had been so nice to us untill that point tthat we were optimistic! All of these days here and it only rained twice - on our way to Belfast and on our way home after the Mournes route - Mean after we saw all the beautiful stuff.
Other than that - sunny days - temperatures in the low 70s - they have been calling it a heat wave.

At New Castle we saw the news of the new prince having been born. And we paid £14 for a 4 gig memory card. Yup, our card had ended and we forgot to buy a new one at Tesco.
Yes, people, before you leave on vacation, check your memory card, buy a new one just for safety. It is always cheaper to buy it from the comfort of your internet at home.

We then walked along the shore, and took pictures of the stores. Why? Because the sun was high up and they were all closing at 5:30.

I would love to have gone hiking at the Castlewellan Forest Park, but we had not time. I have seen pictures. It looks beautiful. But our priority was the family search, and the family search took our time from hiking.
But if you want to go hiking there, follow the signs that start in New Castle.

For dinner we just had sandwiches bought at ASDA along with a 2-liter cider we bought the night before at ASDA as well!!!!!!!

Finally, this will sound very odd, but there is not a sound coming from the pubs tonight.

As our last day in Ireland, we made a little reflection on things we have noticed:
We see a lot of windmills around here. They are everywhere.

Much to Dean's annoyance, there is a lack of internet readily available, unless we type in all of our personal information, the color of our underwear, the last time we had a haircut, etc.
To me, it is annoying that we can't just access information immediately -  know everything we want to know when we want to know it. We are so used to having all of our questions answered on the spot. For instance, what is that building we are looking at? What is the trailer of this movie on the billboard?
On the other hand, we can always ask someone. I guess internet is good and bad. It gives us full access to information, but then we lose the conversation that we can have with people.

Things here are more permanent, more traditional. I am opposing it to the things in America, which seem more fluid. People move from place to place, people move from church to church. Move, move, move, change, change, change. People here don't move much, they stay in their place, they stay in their church, they stay in their jobs - if you marry a person from another church, the wife follows the husband. Their cities are smaller. Their lifestyle is slower. They close business at 5:30, they don't open on Sundays. They dress for the occasion - farming clothes for work; dressy clothes to have people over and to go to church, dress down clothes to go shopping; the student's uniform is formal. Everything here screams permanence, tradition ...

Cows, it seems like everyone has them. Little tiny houses, with a little yard, and huge COWS in them.

Tesco -£0.80(cash)
Boots - £7.70(credit)
multi-storey car park at Montgomery st. - £14.20(credit)
ASDA - £8.68(credit)
Boots - £3.41(cash)
AJCeletrical - £14.00(credit)
The kitchen bar - £25.29
petrol - £10.00(cash)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Solving pending issues after the trip

Car Rental - On Monday, August 5, I called Holidayautos and they have given me 21 days to solve the problem with the extra one-way charge at Alamo.

It is not the best thing in the world to realize I have to pay something and now I have to call and solve a problem. But mistakes happen. And I was looking forward to see how they value their costumers that get screwed up.

Wednesday, August 21, they said they were working on the issue.

Friday, August 23, they said they would not refund me the fee, because this extra fee was listed as "Extras" on the booking. But they would refund me 9 pounds becuase the fee value was misquoted.

Really? Wrong! I replied re-stating that I had called twice and twice was told there was no fee, and that if I didn't get my refund with them, I'd have my credit card cancel the whole charge.

SUnday, August 25, I get an email saying that they were sympathetic with my commetns and would refund me the whole amount of the one-way fee.

What a pain. Lessons learned:
- Avoid third party agencies.
- When dialogue doesn't work - threat to sue or cancel with the credit card.

Lodging - On this same day I also filed a complaint with Paypal for the room we paid for and couldn't stay.

Missing Miles - I waited the required 15 days that United told me to wait on their miles website. So I called on  Monday, August 19. Know your stuff before you call, because you can get awesome costumer service people, like the second one I talked to; or ignorant ones like the first one. I could have lost my miles if I had taken her word as final.
Step 1 - tried entering miles on the website. Got a number of error messages.
Step 2 - tried calling the automated service. No reasonable answer.
Step 3 - Insisted on talking to a live agent. had to repeat the word agent at two different times because the the automated service didn't want me to talk to an agent.
Step 4 - Agent 1 told me I could not get miles for my flight because the flight was Boston-Dublin. And Aer Lingus only gave miles for flights between North America and Ireland. Flights from Dublin only count between London, Belfast, Cork, Manchester and Birmingham. Therefore a Boston-Dublin flight is not eligible for mile earning.

Now what is wrong with her information?

Hello-o! BOSTON is in NORTH AMERICA and DUBLIN is in IRELAND!!!!

I told her that.
"But Boston is in North America and Dublin is in Ireland."
 And she said, "No, but Dublin flights are only eligible is to London, Belfast, Cork, Manchester and Birmingham."
"So you are telling me that my flight is not eligible for miles because it is between Boston and Dublin."
- yes - that was my face after I hung up the phone.

Step 3 - double check website and call again. Has to insist with automated service again, 2 times, to get an agent. Agent 2 was happy and had a good dose of humor. She also understood when I said that Boston-Dublin was a a N.America-Ireland flight. She entered both mine and my husband's info and requested us both the miles for the flight. She said in 15 days it should be there.

Finally, remember to bring something called a receipt pouch with a little note book attached to it, so you can control your expenses and make sure you're not spending more than what you have planned to. It also makes sure you don't go back home and spend days trying to log it all, and account for all the money.
Expenses should be logged as they are made.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

UK 2013 - What is in a word? Try asking me for my age.

On this trip we have both learned something new. Here are the British words we've learned:
  1. Satnav - GPS
  2. Bap - a bread roll
  3. cam - mashed potato with scallion or something.
There is also holiday and toilet.
I am still trying to say holiday instead of vacation.
And I have made quite a lot of progress with the word toilet (it sounds so crude) for bathroom. Toilet has been a huge mind battle for me since last time we were here. It just sounds wrong. For the whole 16 days we stayed in the UK in 2011 I just could not utter that word. I always went to a British person decided to overcome my awkwardness and ask in their dialect, "Where are the toilets, please?" But as soon as I opened my mouth, my brain said, "No you're not saying that." And I would say the word restroom instead.
The word toilet was just too crude - my rational side said yes, and that is about it. Every other part of me said, "are you crazy?" This is comparable only to the answer to question "How old are you?" I also can't say those words.  ... I hate when I go to the doctor and I see my chart on her hands, and those numbers are staring back at me... I know what they are, and in a normal situation I can most definitely say them. I just can't pronounce them as a reply to the "How old are you?" question. The reply to that question is 21. Or, if I am really pissed off, I just say something rude like, "What kind of a question is that?"

Sunday, August 18, 2013

UK 2013 - day 3: Londonderry - the walled city

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dean woke up with a headache, which made me worry we might be off to a bad day. Besides, it was cool and cloudy. So, Dean's headaches are usually day killers because they just don't go away. And the Irish people were telling us about this heat wave they had been having, and I thought that might have been the end of it.
But, hey, what do you know, it turned into bright sunny day, and Dean's headache medicine actually worked!!!!!

To make things better, after breakfast, I finally got a number for my cell phone, via customers service. That did sound like another good thing. Just that it wasn't, which is why I repeat, don't buy Orange/EE for your travel SIM card. Don't buy your travel SIM card anywhere other than the airport.

The night before Stanley suggested that we headed to the American Ulster Folk Park and the Migrational Studies Library, right next to it.
So our plan of action was:
Migrational Studies Library, then through the Sperrin Mountains to Londonderry. 

I had checked the travel guide for the Folk Park the night before. If I hadn't checked it, I'd start blaming myself, as usual. It said open daily. Well, surprise, surprise! As we got there, there was a sign saying they were closed on Mondays!
We were not the only tourists deceived by the wrong info - there were at least two other groups of people there who showed up for nothing.
So, yeah, call the place before you head there. The day of, a week before you travel, it doesn't matter. Just call before you head there.
But, if worst comes to worst, then just go hit your next spot. Don't do like I did when Mom took us to Rio and the Maracan√£ was closed for repairs and I put on a mean face for the rest of the day. To my defense, I was 12 ... and I was always a little bit of a brat and a fool. But, yeah, if there's no fixing for something, that means it is fixed. Move on!
So we headed straight to Londonderry, not wasting a single moment to think about it. I had a parking spot address from my 2011 planning, but it was a free parking thing and it was full. So we headed into the unknown world of unplanned car park search. We did a paid car park near the city wall. There are plenty of them and, as you head there, they display the number of slots available at any given moment (on an electronic panel).
We paid £4.50 for 5 hours. Not bad at all. It's more than we paid in Belfast, but this is Monday, not Saturday. There is a website where you can find car parks and prices.

Londonderry is the only fully walled city in the whole British Isles. We parked near the visitor center.
From there, we went on a walking tour for £4/person.
The guide walked us over the wall, and gave us the one thing you expect a paid guide to give you - history insights. Why is this the one thing? Because the sight-seeing, the walking , and the main historical outline you can do on your own, online - it is cheaper and more fun.

Lunch: a pub called The Bentley. Then we went for a second walk around the wall, this time on our own.
Guess what we found! A place called McCartney and Casey Solicitors. If you know me, you know why I care about that, and why I took a picture pointing to it.

Since Dean used my last Ibuprophen this morning, We stopped at Super Drug to buy medicine. This time we didn't buy a bag. We just put the stuff in my handbag instead.

Later on in our trip we would learn the in England and Scotland they don't charge you for bags. But we only learned that when we got to Lu's house in Liverpool. But here in Ireland, they charge you for bags. You can pay 5p for a bag. We learned that at Boots Belfast. Then the same happened at ASDA Cookstown, and at Tesco -a grocery store - later that same afternoon.

Oh, if you are the kind of person that keeps careful track of your expenses, like me, make sure you ask for your receipts.
Receipts is something you have to ask for here in the UK. Most places won't simply offer you one.

After the walk on the wall, we walked to the  Hands Across the Divide statue.

Back to the hotel, at around 6:30pm - we noticed that nothing here is open after 6:30 pm.  As a matter of fact,  places start closing at 5:30.

Pubs on the other hand stay open till very late - but pubs that don't serve any food. As a matter of fact, I wonder how they keep people drinking for so long without anything to eat.

As we got to our tavern, we got a message from Stanley Watt to meet him at 8 at the Church of Ireland, the Pomeroy parish. He had scheduled a meeting between us and the church person in charge of the church records. And those that went back to the 1800's. So guess what, we did find some info - like some birth records for Dean's great-great-grand-uncles and aunts.

After some nice chatting and researching, at around 10pm, Stanley led us to a Watt family., I was a bit freaked out of showing up at someone's house anytime after 8pm. Maybe the British don't care about silly things such as time. Or maybe it is an Irish thing. We chatted til around midnight, they kept a copy of my book, and, best thing, they fed us.

Today we made sure we were fast to follow Stanley. He doesn't wait. Ever. Today, he hadn't even closed the door and he was already on the move. Holy cow! If we were not right behind him - too bad. Is that a British thing as well? Or maybe an Irish thing?

Stanley made an interesting comment when telling us the immigration history - "the smart ones migrated to America." Does he really believe that or was he trying to be kind? Did the people that thought they could do something with their lives leave for America, because they knew that they could excel there? Our guide at the Londonderry city wall talked about all the immigrants that left from Ireland and placed and Irish pub in every corner of the world. There are also those who went to Liverpool and Glasgow in hopes to save some money and gain the world and just stayed there. That is why some Irish people claim that the Beatles are actually Irish. Hey, it makes sense. After all I have seen McCartney and Lennon business places around. McCartney is actually a Scottish name. So maybe, like the Watts, the McCartney came from Scotland, to Ireland, then to Liverpool. Just crazy suppositions, ok? Don't take my crazy genealogical logic a history. I really know nothing about the McCartney or the Lennon Families and their history.

Today's expenses:
The Kitchen Bar in Londonderry - £17.50(cash)
rest stop snack- £5.00(cash)
Superdrug - £3.80(cash) Cookstown
Superdrug - £3.98(cash)
tesco - £8.63(credit)
carpark Foley side - £4.50(cash)
Derry visitor and convention bureau - £5.00(cash)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Italy 2014 - first steps

I just started looking at Italy today. We might go there next year.

Now I don't know, because my jury duty was transferred to july/august  2014 ... that is upsetting. People spend years as citizens and never get called ... I have been a citizen for 14 months... and there is my jury duty paper...

But, hey, let's plan. Let's plan and see what happens. What can not happen is have the time and not be able to go for lack of planning.

So, here is where I have started.

Italy - agriturismo on bing gave me the first ideas. I already knew I wanted to see Tuscany, because of the Brazilian novela Passione that I have watched recently.

Then I tried key words Italy itinerary: - this site gives you plenty of info on travelling to Italy in general. Cities, getting around, even education and jobs. You know, just in case I fall in love with it and decide to stay... - this site is cool because it gives you ideas of itneraries.

I checked out this book on Amazon called Backroads Norther and central Italy from DK Eyewitness... it looked decent, so I ordered it. It will give us ideas.

Anyway, here is what I knew off-hand:
I'd like to see Venezia .... I'd like to see Tuscany ...
There is also the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii - that we have seen in Rick Steves shows.
Dean wants to see small villages. My aunt Lea gave us a lot of names of small towns in the tuscany area.
I'd love to visit " fair Verona" from Romeo and Juliet... but only if there are things to recognize from the story... if not, then ... I don't know.

On the backroads book I saw there was also the alps ... omg!!! they are beautiful! I want it........... You know just like when we were in Scotland... I had to go and touch the mountains. Touch, touch, touch...
So may be we want to include the alps.

On the websites we saw this beautiful coastal place called Cinqueterre... They said it has been getting more and more touristy ... that's just too bad ... we want to go to places where tourists don't go. You know, where the real people live ... a place like here, Westfield, Granville, tolland ... just your normal everyday life.
But cinqueterre is beautiful, so we might try to include a day there or so...

Maybe the little towns tia lea mentioned to us is more real life stuff.
Volterra, Montalcino, monteriggioni, Castellina in Chianti - Colle di Val d'Elsa - Montepulciano -san gimignano ...
Here are the websites from two of them:

then I keyed "Small villages in italy" and found this website:

If you speak portuguese, there is a website about rome that Tia Lea suggested I look at... Maybe your webbrowser can translate it for you... It looks interesting.

So far, we have a starter list of places we want to see:
the alps
small villages like monteriggione
pompeii ...

It might be unrealistic for two weeks, but hey, you've gotta start somewhere. We will polish this list , add and drop stuff as planning takes shape...

And here I stop for the night.

Till next week

Sunday, August 11, 2013

UK 2013 - day 2: Church and Family search

Today is Sunday, so we went to church. We went to the Presbyterian church in Pomeroy, the church we believed Dean's ancestors might have gone to.

Irish Breakfast!
We had a delicious Irish breakfast at around 8 am, the time we told our hosts we would be having breakfast.

8 AM???? Am I crazy? Well, this is my vacation, ok! I don't want to waste a single second of it. I like early starts on non-working days, because sleeping-in is not part of my Activities to Enjoy the Day booklet. You can sleep in when you're dead

According to our host, there was a birthday party last night, hence the noisy night. So, maybe it is not as noisy on other days? H'm... I can't say yes or no, but there would plenty of noise on the next 2 days. Since once I'm out, I'm out - it really doesn't matter how much noise they make. I could sleep through world war 3.

Sleeping beauty
But after breakfast I threw my Activities to Enjoy the Day booklet out the window. We went up to the room and lay down to relax. Since church wasn't till 11 we had a few minutes to spare. Then guess what - we fell back asleep and a few minutes turned into a couple of hours. I guess we were just so worn out from the day before that any horizontal surface would put us right to sleep. Dean was dead from driving on the wrong side of the road all day after having had close to no sleep in the plane. I was tired from writing till 1AM - heavily caffeinated. Put all of these together with a cozy bed and you have two sleeping beauties that don't get up till 10AM.

Maybe we needed the rest, but now that meant that we had 1 hour to be inside the church building. Have you ever seen two crazy people running around the room trying to get ready for something.

Presbyterian Church of Pomeroy
We made it to church. A little bit late, but we made it. We didn't come all the way from America to go to that church just so we could miss it for a couple of minutes of oversleeping.

The service surprised us. The message was refreshingly covenantal. We tend to think that Christianity is dead in Europe, but, hey, I heard a very much reformed message being preached.

Dean noticed something interesting - during the message the pastor mentioned the hardships that their people have been dealing with. One of the things he mentioned was their failing health care system, "the same system our president and congress want to implement in the US," Dean told me. H'm... Ok.

As for me, I was just glad I was able to understand the words at all. My English has been getting better and better.

Watt family search
That's what we came on this vacation for. As we exited the church building, we were greeted - as usually happens when you visit any church - and, as we explained our purpose for being there, we were introduced to a men named Stanley Watt.

Stanley does genealogy research and explained a lot to us about Dean's family.

How crazy is that? He seems to belong to the same Watt family we are related to.

We scheduled to meet him again the next day - Monday evening - so that he could helps us more with our research. But for the remainder of that afternoon, he took us to the church some of the Watts had switched to a long time ago. It is a Church of Ireland - parish of Crossdernot. Not sure how to pronounce this either.

But, hey! We thought they were Presbyterians! What's up with that?

Well, originally, yes, they were all Presbyterians, having migrated from Scotland, where they belonged to the Church of Scotland - which was Presbyterian.

However, if I understood this correctly, in Ireland there was something called Penal Laws, by which if you were a Presbyterian - or anything that was not Church of Ireland, there was a lot of stuff you were not allowed to do.

You couldn't for instance hold any high level jobs, or sell any of your possessions for more than £5.00 - no matter what their worth.

So what did a bunch of Watt Presbyterians did? They switched for the Church of Ireland. And that is why our new friend Stanley was about to have us follow him to the Church of Ireland - parish of Crossdernot.

That following part was a bit of a challenge. Apparently here in Ireland when you tell someone "follow me," you drive a mile down the road and hope your followers guess which way you went.

By the time Dean and I got into our car and looked ahead of us, we looked at each other and went, "Where did he go?"

Since we thought  we had been to that church on our first trip, we figured we knew which ways to turn. And there we went - guessing which turns to take and not to take until we found his car waiting for us at a corner.

At the church we took pictures of graves that could be our relatives. The pictures were meant to be records of our family history. Dean's aunt is doing the whole research, so we were going to get those for her. But I end up taking pictures of anything that touches me.

That is why I don't really like graveyards. They make me cry. I cry every time I see children graves, or graves of spouses that left this life many years before the other. Or even those that have become impossible to read. Someone someday buried that person there - and no one knows who they were anymore.

Enough of grave yards. Stanley took us to Dean's ancestors' first farm site, which today is owned by another Watt - a relative (of some degree) named Denver. He happened to to be there, so we walked around and chatted a little.

Finally we scheduled to meet at the Crossdernot church the next day. We were going to meet a man who would open up the church baptism and funeral records for us to look at.

SIM card - first troubles

It was 3:30 by the time we said goodbye and went for lunch. We figured, because of the time, we should get something light, so we could get pub grub by dinner time. So we ate a chicken wrap at the McDonald's on the ASDA parking lot, right after buying an EE phone card at ASDA.

The phone card apparently was not working. We did everything the directions told us to. We figured we would call their costumer service after we found our dinner place - our next mission mission.

McCartney's bar
We left McDonald's to go look for our (hopefully) dining place - this bar called McCartney's that we had seen 2 years ago, while lost in the area and never saw it again. We drove and drove and drove randomly. We had asked around the night before, but no one knew of that place, so we drove further away, to places we thought we had been to 2 years ago.

Eventually we gave up. Apparently this place doesn't exist. No one knows of it. It is not on the internet. It is not anywhere. It was past dinner time. So we figured we should look for another pub.

There is nothing open on Sundays!
Every town around us had nothing open but bars.We finally found a couple of take-away diners. A fish and chip place called Dolphin in downtown Dungannon. We bought fish and chips, but when we got to our tavern we realized we had neither forks nor tartar sauce. The fish was a flavorless oily mess, the chips were clumped together in a bag.

So I decided to go to bed hungry. Dean tried to find me food somewhere down the road. He didn't, and by the time he got back his food was cold... we both were going to bed hungry.

So we went to the phone booth to call the SIM card costumer service. Guess what! They are not open on Sundays!!!

But at 10 PM ... guess what! oh! I hear the movement starting outside. Life comes to town once more in the dead of the night.  At the bars of, course. That is hysterical.

Today's expenses
ASDA - £14.46 (cash)
McDonald's - £6.00(cash)
Dolphin - £ 13.10(cash) dinner - which I didn't eat

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

UK 2013 - day 1: Belfast, Coastal drive, and Cookstown.

Hey, rise and shine! Life is beautiful and vacation has begun!

After a miserable flight + 48 hours of no sleep (Thursday night - trying to get my online class done; Friday night - unable to sleep in a tight airplane chair); loaded with about five Red Bulls (which made me j- j- j-jittery), we've landed full speed ahead In Dublin to begin our vacation.

Flight - 
Man, those people that travel business class are lucky! ... and rich of course... Those chairs are nicely spaced and lay all the day down for a nice bed-like experience. If you can afford it, travel business.

But we can't. We fly tight economy. And it gets us there.

We flew United, but the flight was operated by Aer Lingus. Unlike Virgin Airlines, the Aer Lingus flight is bare bones. They don't give us little knickknacks like Virgin gave us last time.

If you can, avoid landing in Dublin. Their immigration lines are long and painfully slow. Thank God there was free wi-fi at the airport. We facebooked away... and I posted this pic:
Do I look like I haven't gotten any (sleep, I mean) for 2 nights?

Car rental - 
If you have a credit card and you think that it covers you rental insurance ... Don't go to Ireland, Jamaica or Israel.
I called Capital One to make sure the counter lady from Enterprise wasn't lying ... It is true. We had to pay for insurance.
And insurance cost an extra €100 over our budget. .... Well, well, well, here we go, starting our vacation over-budget ... My so neatly well-planned budget.

Finding the Enterprise counter was a little bit of a comedy - a comedy of errors, that is:
First Dean sees a shuttle for Enterprise from the second floor window. He then decides that we are supposed to go wait for the shuttle outside. As usual, I followed him, even though I knew there was something wrong with what he was saying. I tend to follow Dean's senseless ideas for the first few seconds ... then I panic. "This ain't right. This ain't right." I just keep saying that till Dean yells at me. "Then what are you going to do?"
That was when I figured that looking for a random shuttle spot made no sense, that the smart thing to do was to look at the booking confirmation paper. Hey! It said - "counter inside the airport." H'm....

Back inside the airport, we followed signs for rental agencies. When we did find the car rentals, where was Enterprise? ... Oh! there it is! Hiding behind a corner past every other car rental window! We found it after walking in a loop a few times on the first floor.

Mistake - We bought a full tank for €60. That is a bad idea. Don't do that. The counter lady will say that their "petrol" (gas in Brtish) is cheaper. ... Maybe in her own fairy tale land. You can always find cheap petrol around.

Besides, if you are trying to make sure your tank is empty, you won't be able to check your mileage. And Dean and I like to check our mileage. You know these car rentals work as test drives for us. Mileage is a big deal when you test drive.

It is NOW, after you've been to the counter, that you go to the shuttle.

My Irish English goal: Our shuttle driver John spoke a very much Irish English. I understood about 25% of all he said. My goal by the end of day 4 in Ireland is to understand at least 50% of what the Irish people say.

John explained to us that the riots we had been reading about on the news are fruit of a yearly celebration in which the protestants go to the Catholics streets to display the victory of the Protestant king over the Catholic one. - I don't recall their names. ... James? William? .... They always have the same names. It's either James, William, George, Edward ... Do they only have four male names in England?

Apparently the public display of happiness got violent this year - hence the riots.

Our Car

Our car is a cute white VW Up! (yes, with the exclamation mark). So teeny tiny, but so spacious inside. Its trunk fit our full size luggage and both our backpacks. It drives very well, according to our official driver Dean. Mileage? ... Yeah, we won't be knowing that. ... Way to go, Vee. But we assume it is over 50 mpg.

SIM Card -
We have a travel phone that I bought in Brazil. We put local SIM cards in it every time we travel abroad.
We didn't buy our SIM card at the Dublin airport because Dublin is not in the UK and we wanted to buy a UK local number. Little did we know that this would lead us to our total inability to make or receive phone calls for about a week.
Word to the wise, buy your SIM card at an airport. You'll find out why in the next few days.
We should have driven straight to the Belfast airport and bought us a SIM card.

Trip North - 
We were not staying in Ireland. We were staying in Northern Ireland.So we headed out of the airport and into Northern Ireland right away.
Having planned so poorly for this trip, I forgot to check for toll booths. There was one soon enough, on M1. But all was well because we did have Euros with us. Thanks, Mom! That payment you made me in Euros (and I wondered, "what the hell am I going to do with this?"), that saved us.... Moms know better, people. They always do. There is something about moms. ... Which is why I am not fit to be one.

And here is something I liked about that place - the toll booth.They had a sign said "ARRIVE ALIVE" - I like that philosophy. During this trip, I will find myself repeating that line to my husband Dean a few times, in a panicky voice, and hands over my face. "Arrive alive! Arrive alive, honey! Arrive alive!"

Entering Northern Ireland is a mystery
We knew we had reached Northern Ireland because, suddenly, the road signs were only in English  (rather than the bilingual English -Gaelic signs from the Republic) and the speed signs were in Miles instead of Kilometers. No Passport check, no immigration booths, not even a sign saying "Welcome to Northern Ireland."

Your SatNav / GPS needs maps
The SatNav (GPS in British) found our first destination - St George's Market, in Belfast. So there we went.
But it was only able to do that, because we had UK/Irish maps downloaded to it.
Do remember to buy UK/Ireland maps for your SatNav before leaving the United States. It doesn't come with foreign maps, you know.
... A lot of people don't seem to know that. ... Just saying.

We found a "multi-storey car park" (parking garage in British) for £4 all day long, on Montgomery St. It was neighbor to the car park (parking lot in British) we stayed for free last time. This time it wasn't free anymore. But you can't beat 4 pounds a day. That is because it was a Saturday special. On regular week days the price is spicy (that means expensive in Portuguese).

St. George's Market is open Fri-Sun - each day with a specific type of market (variety; crafts; and mix). But they always have food - good food. And they let you sample!!! Yum! Yum!

We had lunch at the Lebanese guy, after trying other samples. At St. George's you can always ask for samples. Dean didn't get any ...(samples, I mean) I don't know why. I get them anywhere I can find them. And I always promise I will be back, because I always think I've found the best food in the market. ... yeah ...

At the Lebanese guy we got Falafel wrap for Dean, Falafel salad for me. I got the Falafel salad because of the generous portion of humus it comes with.

Yummy  yummy humus - one of my all time favorite foods.

Falaffel, on the other hand, are those little cakes to the side. It turns out they are made just like the Brazilian acarajé. Just the base ingredient is different, the preparation is the same. Check out the videos:

After lunch, we walked to the Linen library - just across the street from City Hall - to do some genealogy search. It turned out we had to already know something about our people in order to find them in those genealogy books available there.
But Dean had fun looking at the information either way. Disappointing, but fun.
Later I sat down at their cafe - with free wi-fi - and downloaded some plans from 2011, since my planning for this year was pitifully disorganized.

For this year I had planned the black cab tour of Belfast - that one that takes you to see the political murals and stuff. Would they be running with the riots going on? It would hurt to ask. So we called from a pay phone (yeah, those red cabin phones!!!). But their phone number didn't exist! Well, it was on the website. I had just double-checked at the library cafe. I guess that settles it. We are not doing black taxi tours. Let's just go for option 2: a coastal drive.

Oh, wait! First things first! Around the corner from the library there was a Boots - a pharmacy where Dean wanted to go buy shaving supplies. Dean and his old-timey shaving mania. As for me I bought a nail polish remover to get my nails done. I was planning on getting my nails done... a few times maybe... It wouldn't happen for the whole trip... but, hey, no one ever said wishful thinking was bad.

I took pictures of a demonstration going on in front of city hall. Who knows what that was about. I should have asked.

Coastal Drive
We used our Ireland Drives book and drove up the coast all the way to the town of Cushendall. Not sure how to pronounce that. I've pronounced so many city names wrong during this trip it is not even funny. Every so often I'd be talking to someone and they'd say the right name of the place.

Me: Oh! That is how you say it?
Local: Yes! How have you been saying it?
Me: (awkward look) Never mind, never mind, never mind.

It was a tough ride for me - who had been awake since Thursday morning. It was now Saturday afternoon, the 5 Red Bulls had worn out, and my body was calling it quits.
What happened? Well, I am famous for falling asleep in the car... (even on the driver's seat, which almost cost me my life once, but let's skip that story) So I missed some beautiful coastal views.

Dean was also tired from the miserable overnight flight. I felt bad and wanted to help him stay awake, but hey, have you ever seen a blind person trying to guide a friend who wears glasses?
I was a useless blob on the passenger's seat.

Cushendall had free parking - I love free parking! We stopped and went for a walk in a park they mentioned in our book.
But, first things first, we walked into their little grocery store and bought - guess what - caffeinated drinks! My body doesn't work without caffeine anymore. It just doesn't. Why try? I will just hurt myself. As in, rolling over with the car while I am asleep behind the wheel. ... let's not talk about that.
Then, properly caffeinated, we went for a happy stroll through the park. We looked for this Laide Church to see some Celtic crosses the book mentioned, but we didn't find it.  We didn't care to keep looking. We had enjoyed our 45-minute stroll through the park, and we wanted to make it to Cookstown alive. I know a thing or two about sleepy driving. ... Not fun.

Lodging and Dining in Cookstown
The Belfast House was easy to find. It was right off the main road, above a Subway restaurant.
We checked in, chatted with locals, and, since they don't serve dinner there, we ate at The Royal Hotel for only £17.

We had eaten there last time too.
Just that this time, we met a group of Americans that are staying at Fortview Manor - the B&B I had tried to book for us, but they had no rooms available! Guess who had booked those rooms! Yeah. The Americans dining at the Royal with us. Here comes the neat part. They bought a bottle of wine, because it was so cheap, but they couldn't drink it all, so they shared it with us. Free wine. Can't whine about that.

Back to the Belfast House, I showered and Dean passed out in bed. So as I was writing my journal, my Dean was fast asleep, poor baby. The sleep of the just ... and the drivers.

I liked our room. It was nice, spacious and comfortable. Pretty much all you can ask of a room.
It was around 1am by the time I finished writing this journal. I was so tired, but I couldn't close my eyes - too much caffeine.
But I knew I had to sleep, do I just stopped writing and hit the sack.
By the way - there was a lot f noise outside at 1 AM. Funny thing is, the city was so dead at around 8PM when we got there! But by 1 AM it was very much alive. Alive and loud. It doesn't bother us. We knew what we were getting ourselves into when we booked a tavern/inn. That's what Dean always asks for.
"Can you please book us a tavern? The kind that has the pub downstairs and the lodging upstairs?"
"Do you know how much work it is to find those places ... honey?"

But, do remember, if you don't like noise, don't stay at a tavern. B&B's are the place for you.

We've stayed at B&B's before. They are quiet. They have that great-grandma's home feel to it. You know, by 8 pm everyone seems to be in bed, and those party animals like us, who arrive at the hotel between 10pm to midnight, have to tiptoe our way to the room, avoid flushing till morning, and ... try not to get any action in bed ... (unless you don't mind entertaining all the other guests with ... never mind).

Today's expenses:
Car rental $462.14 (credit)
car park  at Montgomery st multi-storey car park - £4 (credit)
lunch at st George's market £10 (cash)
boots £9.20 (credit)
Eurospar Cushendall £2.99 (cash) - this is a grocery store
the royal hotel £16.70 + £3(tip cash) dinner
Belfast House £55 (credit)
Boots - £9.20(credit)